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Separation of Church and State
Posted: 20 October 2006 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I need some assistance, I am debating whether to ignore the following e-mail or seek assistance from this audience to generate an adequate reply:

[quote:464cc59e5f]In response to your comments, for your information only, I do request there is no reply, you should probably be aware of the HISTORY of the dogmatic statement you used on the listserv

YOUR COMMENTS-

[u:464cc59e5f]This is what I posted:[/u:464cc59e5f]

[i:464cc59e5f] believers and non believers need to support that separation, because you never know when the winds of faith will change and how this may affect the recent minority, it does not even have to be a different faith in a God, just a different way of worship ( i.e. Protestants and Catholics in Ireland). That separation must extend to medical care, I respect my patients beliefs, and I expect reciprocity from my patient. I cherish the scientific basis of Medical practice, Faith and Science do not overlap. I also understand and cherish civility and urbane behavior, we greet strangers on the street or hallway, and sometimes the right thing is not to mention Faith[/i:464cc59e5f]

[Dr Covey]

Religious Liberty
March 26, 2004

by Perry L. Glanzer

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Focus on the Family is deeply concerned about the ways the religion clauses of the First Amendment are being interpreted so that they threaten to deny religious persons their rights or to exclude religion and religiously grounded values from public expression and debate. The following statement highlights our particular concerns.

The Free Exercise of Religion

Traditionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that in order for a law to prevail over an individual╠s free exercise of religion it must have a compelling state interest. However, in 1990 the Court rejected this traditional interpretation and essentially placed the burden on individuals to prove why their free exercise rights had been violated. Seven years later in Boerne v. Flores, the Court threw out Congress╠s attempt to remedy the Supreme Court╠s trampling of religious liberty. As a result, the religious liberty of Americans is more unprotected than ever.

Focus on the Family calls for the Supreme Court to recover the high vision of religious freedom envisioned by the founders. In light of the Court╠s low view of religious freedom, we endorse state-level RFRA╠s that do not include prisoner exemptions as needed remedies to assure persons of their religious liberties. These acts would reaffirm that government does not grant religious liberty and that it should not burden the free exercise of religion without a compelling state interest.

The Establishment of Religion

The ¤Wall Of Separation Between Church And StateË

Current interpretations of the Establishment Clause (¤Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…Ë) are also undermining the rights of religious individuals and groups. The primary reason concerns the phrase ¤the wall of separation between church and state.Ë The phrase is not found in the Constitution. It came from a personal letter from Thomas Jefferson to some Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut. However, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and other organizations have used this phrase to promote a dogmatic interpretation of the First Amendment that discriminates against or disadvantages traditional religious believers in three major ways.

1. Excluding Religiously Grounded Moral Positions From Informing Law
From the acts of the founders through the work of the abolitionists to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, religious citizens have played an important role in agitating for beneficial social change. Through the leadership of people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., the Christian ethic has motivated important legislative change and reform in America. Yet, a strict separationist interpretation would inhibit a person with traditional religiously based moral positions from influencing the nation╠s laws while allowing secular philosophies free reign over our legal system.

For example, the California branch of the ACLU wrote in a letter: ¤It is our position that teaching that monogamous, heterosexual intercourse within marriage is a traditional American value is an unconstitutional establishment of a religious value in public schools.Ë1 Simply because a moral insight has a religious origin is no reason at all to exclude it from the public square.

2. Denying Religious Persons The Equal Rights Of Expression In The Public Square
Second, a strict separationist interpretation denies religious persons equal rights of expression. For instance, recent lower court cases have taken the following actions:

  * Upheld a principal╠s decision to prohibit a class valedictorian from speaking who was planning to devote a portion of her speech to the importance of Jesus Christ in her life.
  * Upheld a teacher╠s refusal to allow a student to write a research paper on ¤The Life of Jesus ChristË even when other papers on ¤SpiritualismË and ¤ReincarnationË were approved.
  * Upheld a principal╠s order asking a fifth grade public school teacher to refrain from reading the Bible during a class silent reading period and to remove a Bible from the top of his desk.

All of these decisions uphold the erroneous assumption that the public sphere, especially publicly funded education, must be secular. This radical interpretation of the First Amendment, which would exclude religion from public life, is a far cry from the framers’ intent. As John Adams stated (1798): ¤Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.Ë

3. Denying Benefits Because Of Religion
Third, a strict separationist interpretation of the Establishment Clause denies government benefits to religious persons or institutions solely because of their religion character. For example, the courts have often used a strict separationist view to prohibit parents from receiving financial relief for choosing religious educational options. The government should not be allowed to use the power of the purse to favor secular over traditional religious perspectives and choices.

Establishment Clause Reinterpretation

Focus on the Family calls for the courts to recover the original vision of pluralism envisioned by the founders that does not discriminate against religion but affirms its importance in our public life. We suggest it follow the advice offered by legal scholar Michael McConnell:

"The beginning of wisdom in this contentious area of law is to recognize that neutrality and secularism are not the same thing. In the marketplace of ideas, secular viewpoints and ideologies are in competition with religious viewpoints and ideologies. It is no more neutral to favor the secular over the religious than to favor the religious over the secular.

It is time for a reorientation of constitutional law: away from the false neutrality of the secular state, toward a genuine equality of rights. . . . The Establishment Clause . . . may not be used as a sword to justify repression of religion or its adherents from any aspect of public life.Ë2

We call on judges and lawyers to recognize that what is currently considered neutrality actually ends up supporting a secular public square free of religion. We call on them to return the interpretation of Establishment Clause to its rightful and original place as a protector of equality for all religions in public square and not as a weapon to shield public life from religion.

1James Dobson and Gary Bauer, Children at Risk (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1990), p. 315.
2Michael McConnell, Testimony on Religious Liberty and the Bill of Rights, Submitted to the Congress of the U.S. House of Representative Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, 7 June 1995.
[/quote:464cc59e5f]

[u:464cc59e5f][/u:464cc59e5f]

I am very concerned that this is a pervasive attitude in our society, I feel guilty for not being a member of the ACLU!

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Posted: 21 October 2006 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You should definitely consider supporting the ACLU, it’s a great organization.

I would note that it’s ironic they use people like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in their email; neither were particularly religious. Lincoln was probably atheist or agnostic by the end of his life. Washington rarely went to church.

The United States was founded as an explicitly secular state, in which the government was not to have any religious bias, and in which ‘god’ had no part of the Constitution. The Constitution is written by “We the people”, not god. What people like Dobson and Focus on the Family want to institute is a theocracy, that’s the only way to interpret what they’re after. I think that what they’re hoping for is a “tyranny of the majority”, where some form of Christian theism becomes the law of the land.

It is simply false to claim, as they do, that “a strict separationist interpretation would inhibit a person with traditional religiously based moral positions from influencing the nation’s laws.” This is the kind of mendacious nonsense that these sorts of organizations spout in order to frighten their constituencies. Nobody would argue that religiously based moral positions should have “no influence” on our laws; indeed, how could this happen, given that probably 90% of the inhabitants of this country are religious? The point is, rather, that these moral positions would have to be justified as against other sorts of moral reasoning, and supported in open debate, not simply asserted as some sort of infallible word of god.

The point of secularism is not to eliminate religious practice or influence. It is to moderate it in the public arena, in the awareness that this is occupied by people with a multitude of different religious beliefs or nonbeliefs. So the secularist position is that no one religious position should be priveleged in the public sphere of law, politics, public edcation, etc. Christianity is one particular religion. The Bible is a sectarian document. So while these may influence the arguments people are free to make, they should not be ‘established’ by the government in any way that priveleges them above other sorts of religions, religious documents, or atheistic practices.

There is a lot more to be said here. The important bits really should be dealt with by a scholar of constitutional law, however ...

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Posted: 21 October 2006 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Dr. Shermer made a sobering statement in a recent podcast, Islam is the fastest growing religion, what would we do if Muslims became the majority and they wanted to impose an islamic state?

I watched the “The Root of all Evil” segment where an orthodox jew converted to Islam and now was as fanatic as any arab, we would not have to fear massive immigration of Muslims! I would be afraid of massive “conversions” (I hope this is unlikely!) that could change the wind of faith in the USA.

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Posted: 21 October 2006 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Much recent history notwithstanding, I am no more concerned with this being a Moslem theocracy than a Christian one. Shermer’s point is rhetorically useful against certain middle-of-the-road Christians, at least to get them to see things from another point of view. But it isn’t going to happen here in our lifetimes for sure, and probably never. Europe is another story ... there is a very big immigration influx into Europe from Moslem countries in the Middle East and North Africa. OTOH, America tends to get more immigration from Central and South America and Asia ... none of which are Islamic.

I wouldn’t sweat it. I don’t think Dobson is going to sweat it either.

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Posted: 21 October 2006 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Just in case somebody has not seen the “convert”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Cohen

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Posted: 21 October 2006 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“OhioDoc”] [quote author=“religious-commenter”]

you should probably be aware of the HISTORY of the dogmatic
statement you used on the listserv

This is what I posted:

believers and non believers need to support that separation,
because you never know when the winds of faith will change
and how this may affect the recent minority, it does not even
have to be a different faith in a God, just a different way of
worship ( i.e. Protestants and Catholics in Ireland). ...

Where do they think that the dogma was in your message,
OhioDoc? I don’t see the dogma, but instead they seem to
be misusing language in order to deceive people, including
deceiving themselves.  In various places on the ‘net I’ve seen
some of the US Christian extremists attempting to turn all
of the atheistic criticisms of religion around to use them
against the seculars/atheists.  Some of them do it very well
and could certainly fool a more credulous person.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

Traditionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that in order
for a law to prevail over an individual’s free exercise of
religion it must have a compelling state interest. 

I think that is a tradition, but am suspicious that
they’d attempt to apply it to religious acts done with
government authority, which would be against the
tradition.  Actually, I think that what they’ve done here is
to swap in their word “religion” for the Supreme Court’s word
“speech”, in that statement.  But I’m not that knowledgeable
about the history of the Supreme Court to be certain about this.
In their minds, they probably fully believe that free speech
during government activities is the same freedom as free
religious practices as a part of government activities.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

However, in 1990 the Court rejected this traditional
interpretation and essentially placed the burden on individuals
to prove why their free exercise rights had been violated.

When I call the police I have to show them some proof that a
crime is happening or has happened before it would go to trial.
This burden of proof on the accuser is normal, but they’ve tried
to swap that norm around by placing the burden on the government
when the religious extremists are made to limit their religious
practices from government.  I think their language is very
twisted and deceptive, well rehearsed and well networked also.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

Seven years later in Boerne v. Flores, the Court threw out
Congress’s attempt to remedy the Supreme Court’s trampling
of religious liberty. As a result, the religious liberty of
Americans is more unprotected than ever. 

And another twist in the language usage!  Now the Supreme
Court is supposedly “trampling” religious liberty (making the
Court into the bad guys) when Congress attempted to supposedly
“remedy” (making Congress the good-guys) their trampling.
Then they make it sound like this is an nontraditional new
development with, “more unprotected than ever.”  Obviously the
Court has a long tradition of upholding the “wall of separation
between church and state.”  Those are Thomas Jefferson’s words
as recognized by the Court as far back as Reynolds v. United
States 98 U.S. 145 in Oct. 1878, and the religious extremists
ignore Jefferson’s history having happened.  I suspect that
that history is intentionally left out of their education as
part of the political strategy of the religious extremists.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

Current interpretations of the Establishment Clause (“Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”)
are also undermining the rights of religious individuals and
groups. The primary reason concerns the phrase “the wall of
separation between church and state.” The phrase is not found
in the Constitution. It came from a personal letter from Thomas
Jefferson to some Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut. 

Notice how they leave out the part where the Supreme Court
recognized that letter as authoritative in Reynolds v. United
States, and thus the Court’s tradition to emphasize that phrase
as being a long established precedent.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

Focus on the Family calls for the courts to recover the original
vision of pluralism envisioned by the founders that does not
discriminate against religion but affirms its importance in
our public life. 

“pluralism envisioned by the founders”?  Did they envision
the seemingly never-ending sectarian divisions happening in
the Bible Belt for the past couple of hundred years?  We still
see more sectarian divisions forming today with that split in
the Anglican church over recognizing gay rights to participate
or not!  I sincerely doubt that the constitutional framers had
any of that awful divisiveness in mind as a goal for the
country when they signed the US Constitution, but I don’t know
the details of the history well enough to be certain about that.
And I certainly wouldn’t take the religious extremists’ word
for it.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

We suggest it follow the advice offered by legal scholar
Michael McConnell:

“The beginning of wisdom in this contentious area of law is
to recognize that neutrality and secularism are not the same
thing. In the marketplace of ideas, secular viewpoints and
ideologies are in competition with religious viewpoints and
ideologies.

[quote author=“religious-commenter”]

“It is no more neutral to favor the secular over the religious
than to favor the religious over the secular.” 

Neutrality, ha!  And my guess is that their idea of neutrality
is the government empowering and favoring one or two majority
religions, while ignoring minority religions, so that the
majorities can fight it out using the powers of government.
The same sectarian divisiveness that is in the United States
Bible Belt.

Actual neutrality is keeping the religious extremists from
attempting to dominate over everyone else.  The moderate
religious aren’t trying to dominate over anyone else, and so
they are not the ones threatening others’ religious freedom.
Religious freedom being the ability of each individual
citizen
to choose their own religion or there-the-lack-of,
as is the tradition that the framers established when
they agreed to separate any particular religion from the US
Constitution and from government.

I’ve just gotta add a quotation from Jefferson’s letter,
the short quote normally taken from it just doesn’t do it
justice, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which
lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to
none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative
powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions,
─I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the
whole American people which declared that their legislature
should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a
wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this
expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the
rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction
the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to
all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in
opposition to his social duties.”

(from
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=98&invol=145#154
)

The religious extremists seem to want to ignore that history
too.  Notice that, “legislative powers of the government reach
actions only, and not opinions,” in regards to the Establishment
and Freedom clauses.

- steve s.

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Posted: 22 October 2006 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Ohio Doc,
I only have time to be very brief, those who contend that the court’s rulings on separation of church and state changed the First Amendment’s application to our country posit the country was a “Christian Nation” until those decisions changed it.
That is total BS!!
And if you want to find a great discussion of the First Amendment and its application to church and state, go to the website of “The Public Eye”
Finally, I will help if you want to reply but I doubt a serious reply will produce much light, it will probably only generate more heat. Send me an email if you want.
Jim

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Posted: 22 October 2006 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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You would not believe the reaction when I reminded the doctor’s list serve that religious fanatics murdered a physician that was performing medical procedures!

Thanks for the responses, I will certainly recruit your assistance in posting an appropriate post for a Family Physician list serve. I am a little handicapped in verbal ability, and need all the help I can get with grammar and context!

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Posted: 23 October 2006 02:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yeah, Focus on the Family want to ignore Church/State separation, until they are the ones who want to restrict people’s religious beliefs, and then suddenly they think it’s a good idea!

* Upheld a principal’s decision to prohibit a class valedictorian from speaking who was planning to devote a portion of her speech to the importance of Jesus Christ in her life.
* Upheld a teacher’s refusal to allow a student to write a research paper on “The Life of Jesus Christ” even when other papers on “Spiritualism” and “Reincarnation” were approved.
* Upheld a principal’s order asking a fifth grade public school teacher to refrain from reading the Bible during a class silent reading period and to remove a Bible from the top of his desk.

You really need to look into individual cases like these in order to see why the court ruled as it did.  For example, we have a thread here on the first case mentioned here (the valedictorian).  It turned out that she had been explicitly told that her speech as she wrote it was more of a sermon than a graduation address.  She had something like 12 references to God, and her advisor asked her to cut out six of them.  She ignored the advisor and went ahead with her original speech anyway!

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Posted: 23 October 2006 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“advocatus”]You really need to look into individual cases like these in order to see why the court ruled as it did.  For example, we have a thread here on the first case mentioned here (the valedictorian).  It turned out that she had been explicitly told that her speech as she wrote it was more of a sermon than a graduation address.  She had something like 12 references to God, and her advisor asked her to cut out six of them.  She ignored the advisor and went ahead with her original speech anyway!

Good point, advocatus. Yes, in the first place, these are a handful of cases as opposed to orders of magnitude more on the other side ... of sectarian religious teachings worming their way into courtrooms, onto money, sermons before congress, presidents invoking god, creationism in schools, etc., etc. In the second place, they are somewhat tendentiously described.

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Posted: 23 October 2006 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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You guys should check this out…

 

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"But what remains of your original assertion?"

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Posted: 01 November 2006 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Re: Separation of Church and State

Traditionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that in order for a law to prevail over an individual’s free exercise of religion it must have a compelling state interest.

The so called tradition of “compelling state interest” in free exercise disputes, was not established until 1963. when, in the case of SHERBERT v. VERNER, the Court held that unemployment benefits could not be denied to one who refused a job offer because she held, and exercised, the religious opinion, that one was prohibited from working on Saturdays.

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Posted: 01 November 2006 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Re: Separation of Church and State

  However, in 1990 the Court rejected this traditional interpretation and essentially placed the burden on individuals to prove why their free exercise rights had been violated.

What is wrong with requiring a plaintiff having to prove his free exercise rights were violated, if he alleges that his free exercise rights were violated?  Is the court supposed to just take his word for it?

Seven years later in Boerne v. Flores, the Court threw out Congress’s attempt to remedy the Supreme Court’s trampling of religious liberty. As a result, the religious liberty of Americans is more unprotected than ever.

The issue in Boerne was whether a municipal historic preservation ordinance was trumped by the desire a church to construct a building in violation of said ordinance.  The Court held because the ordinance did not favor one religion over another, and because it was not based on animus or hostility for the free religious exercise, the ordinance trumped the desire of the church to violate the ordinance.

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Posted: 01 November 2006 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Re: Separation of Church and State

As a result, the religious liberty of Americans is more unprotected than ever.

How does requiring chuches to obey reasonable constructions codes, endanger religious liberty?

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Posted: 01 November 2006 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Re: Separation of Church and State

[quote author=“OhioDoc”] Focus on the Family calls for the Supreme Court to recover the high vision of religious freedom envisioned by the founders.

The vision of the founders was “no civil power over religion.”  Religion is the duty which we owe to our Creator. 

The Creator does not require that, in building our churches, we violate reasonable construction codes that do not favor certain religious sentiments or constitute animus or hostility towards free religious exercise.

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Posted: 01 November 2006 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Re: Separation of Church and State

The Establishment of Religion

The “Wall Of Separation Between Church And State”

Current interpretations of the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”) are also undermining the rights of religious individuals and groups. The primary reason concerns the phrase “the wall of separation between church and state.” The phrase is not found in the Constitution. It came from a personal letter from Thomas Jefferson to some Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut. However, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and other organizations have used this phrase to promote a dogmatic interpretation of the First Amendment that discriminates against or disadvantages traditional religious believers in three major ways.

1. Excluding Religiously Grounded Moral Positions From Informing Law
From the acts of the founders through the work of the abolitionists to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, religious citizens have played an important role in agitating for beneficial social change. Through the leadership of people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., the Christian ethic has motivated important legislative change and reform in America. Yet, a strict separationist interpretation would inhibit a person with traditional religiously based moral positions from influencing the nation’s laws while allowing secular philosophies free reign over our legal system.

For example, the California branch of the ACLU wrote in a letter: “It is our position that teaching that monogamous, heterosexual intercourse within marriage is a traditional American value is an unconstitutional establishment of a religious value in public schools.”

No court in the United States has ever held that, “teaching that monogamous, heterosexual intercourse within marriage is a traditional American value is an unconstitutional establishment of a religious value in public schools.”

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